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THE LIBRARY

OF

THE UNIVERSITY

OF CALIFORNIA

LOS ANGELES



WATCHING ON THE RHINE



VIOLET R. MARKHAM



"That which was to be done by rvar and arms in Latium
has now been fully accomplished by the bounty of the gods
and the valour of the soldiers. The armies of the enemy
have been cut down. . . . It now remains to be considered
how we may keep them in the observance of perpetual
peace. . . . Ye can therefore ensure to yourselves per-
petual peace so far as the Latins are concerned, either by
adopting severe or conciliatory measures. Do ye choose
to take harsh measures against people who have sur-
rendered and who have been conquered? Ye may destroy
all Latium. . . . Do ye wish to follow the example of your
forefathers and augment the power of Rome by conferring
the citizenship on the people you have beaten? Materials
for extending your power by the highest glory are at hand.
. . . But zi'hatcver determination ye wish to come to, it is
necessary tluit it be speedy. So many states have ye in a
condition of suspense between hope and fear."

Livy via. 13.



WATCHING ON THE
RHINE



BY
VIOLET R. MARKHAM

AUTHOR OF "south AFRICA PAST AND PRESENT,'
"the south AFRICAN SCENE," ETC.




NEW ^^iS^ YORK
GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY



COPYRIGHT, 1921.
BY GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY



PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA



601

FOREWORD

"Here then will we begin the story: only
adding thus much to that which hath been said,
that it is a foolish thing to make a long prologue
and to be short in the story itself."



1713419



CONTENTS

CHAPTER I PA8K

The Approach ii

CHAPTER n
Cologne and the Occupation 20

CHAPTER HI
The Kolner Dom 42

CHAPTER IV
On the Dom Platz 54

CHAPTER V
Billets 65

CHAPTER VI
Christmas in Cologne 76

CHAPTER VII
The Bergische Land 83

CHAPTER VIII
In Search of a Fishing 95

CHAPTER IX
Who Pays? 104

vii



viii CONTENTS

CHAPTER X

PAGE

Certain Cities AND THE Saar Basin ..... 119

CHAPTER XI
From Metz to Verdun [•: 139

CHAPTER XH
In Alsace , . 156

CHAPTER XIII
Some Electioneering Impressions . . . , . 172

CHAPTER XIV
Hatred <, . 206

CHAPTER XV
The German View of England ...#.. 223

CriAPTER XVI
Watchman — What of the Night? .,*.,. 247



WATCHING ON THE RHINE



WATCHING ON THE
RHINE



CHAPTER I

THE APPROACH
July 1919

Four a. m, : the slowly moving engine comes to a stand-
still with a jolt which wakes me from the uneasy half-
sleep of a train journey. I lift a corner of the blind and
look out. It is the grey hour before the dawn, when
night still wrestles with morning for the possession of
the coming day. A ruined building lit up by a station
flare stares at me stark and desolate. In the quarter
light a long street of battered houses is also dimly visible.
Lille ! We have come through the worst of the devastated
area in the night, but the hall-mark of the invader lies
stamped on the big industrial town, the very name of
which is associated henceforth with suspense, with
anguish, with triumph. The military train begins to
move again cautiously over temporary bridges and a
permanent way not as yet permanently repaired. We
are far removed from the days when continental ex-
presses and sleeping-cars swept in a few hours from
one capital to another. The miracle is to be in this slow-

II



12 WATCHING ON THE RHINE

moving train at all which links the British base in France
with the occupied German area. Ruined houses look in
through the window, phantom buildings of which nothing
but the outer walls remain. Yet, as I strain my eyes in
the dim light, I see something else; something which
was not visible when I last visited a devastated area in
March — here and there a house already rebuilt, stacks
of bricks neatly piled, rubbish sifted and cleared, stones
laid in order for the mason's hand. Yes, there has been
"cleaning up'' during the last five months — the most
tragic cleaning up which can ever befall a nation. And
clearly France, with her amazing energy and recuperative
powers, has already flung herself into the task of repair-
ing the desolate places. It is a grim and mighty task
which awaits our Ally.

Stricken though the towns, the land, desolate, barren,
uncultivated, has a pathos all its own. As we move ever
eastwards and the dawn comes up in the sky, the naked-
ness of the fields invaded by coarse grass and weeds
symbolises the sufferings of France. But in the growing
light evidences appear in the fields of the same brave spirit
which is reclaiming the towns. Here and there a half-
destroyed farmhouse has been patched up, and a thin
cloud of smoke rises from the battered chimney. Across
the silent fields a team of horses is being led out to work ;
a woman drives out her cows or is seen surrounded by
clamorous poultry. France may be sorely wounded, but
the spirit of France cannot be destroyed. France, for all
her losses, has hope in her heart, and amid the desolation
of war, hope, like some beautiful flower, blossoms once
again.

Eastward, always eastward, for we are bound through



THE APPROACH 13

the lands of the conquering victim to those of the humbled
oppressor. With every mile the visible signs of war grow
less, though houses and buildings along the railway show
marks of gunfire long after the land has regained its
normal aspect. First and last, districts through which
the railways pass have suffered most both in advance and
retreat ; a fact to which the scarred stations bear witness.
By the time the sun is shining brightly we have passed
beyond the outer fringes of desolation and are again in a
prosperous-looking land. The sight of Maubeuge re-
called many an anxious moment during the great German
invasion of 19 14. Outwardly the town appeared to have
suffered but little. As we crossed the Belgian frontier a
general view of the country as seen from the carriage
windows conveyed the same impression. The soil was
well cultivated, the houses in good order. There are no
evidences of the presence of a hostile army beyond the
occasional destruction of a bridge blown up during the
German retreat. The spiritual yoke of an enemy occu-
pation for four and a half years must have been intol-
erable, but material damage was clearly confined to the
first and last days of the war. And Belgium has the
matter in hand. She is at work, working, working all
the time. From countless buildings the Belgian flag
waving in the sunshine proclaimed the glad tidings of a
land released from its invaders and restored to its original
place among nations. The little valleys of the Ardennes,
the factory chimneys of Liege, seem at one in telling the
same tale of liberty regained. There is an indescribable
air of gaiety among the people on the roadside, a sense
of laughter and merry-making. Aerschot, Dinant, Lou-
vain would, of course, tell a different tale, but in southern



14 WATCHING ON THE RHINE

Belgium it would seem that the grip of the invader was
of a different quality from his strangle-hold on France.

Still eastward, and now with a thrill of indescribable
emotion we find ourselves at Herbesthal, the German
frontier. Before us in the sunshine lie the broad fertile
plains of the people whose rulers have deluged the world
with blood and tears. One remembers with bowed head
^he many million lives laid down before we handful of
British folk could journey thus far into the country of the
enemy who had challenged our very existence. With the
memory of shattered and devastated France before our
eyes, we think with sternness no punishment can be too
severe in expiation of the crime under whose consequences
the world is staggering to-day. A train-load of German
prisoners, homeward bound, runs into the station. They
cheer, not very loudly or energetically, it is true, but
nevertheless they cheer as once again they touch the soil
of the Fatherland. From the windows we catch sight
of eager, excited faces among the shabby men in their
faded uniforms. Insensibly the heart softens. They too
have gone through hardship and suffering, just ordinary
men glad to be home again, eager to see wife and child
and sweetheart. And then, as the train rolls forward, sud-
denly on the threshold of the enemy's land comes the
remembrance of those noble words, one of the few great
utterances which illumine the darkness and the passions
of war, "Patriotism is not enough, I must have no hatred
or bitterness in my heart."

The hands of brutal men could not touch the serenity
of Edith Cavell's soul. On the threshold of a cruel
death her spirit had soared above the hideous welter of
passion and brutality all around. She saw these things in



THE APPROACH 15

the light of eternity; saw also the ultimate good of life
express itself, not in the narrow terms of race, but in
abiding spiritual values. The demand for vengeance
which followed on her death has to a large extent obscured
the greatness of her message. Yet Edith Cavell indicated
expressly that vengeance was not the way. No indi-
vidual during the war has thrown a ray of light more
clear on the turmoil of the struggle. But the path she
trod is not an easy one, and many who honour her name
shrink from a task of self-conquest so great as what she
indicates. ... No hatred and no bitterness : and we are
English people crossing the German frontier for the first
time after the war. . . . What has Edith Cavell to say
to each one of us?

Aix-la-Chapelle — Aachen — ^with its memories of Char-
lemagne, King of the Franks, lies some ten miles within
the German frontier. Few outward signs of its venerable
history survive in the busy manufacturing centre of to-
day. The cathedral, founded by Charlemagne, where the
ashes of the great monarch lie buried, rises — an incon-
gruous and protesting relic — among factories, tall chim-
neys, and all the ugly apparatus of modern industry.
Aachen is in Belgian occupation, and we stare from our
carriage windows at a mixed throng of Belgian soldiers,
British Tommies, and German civilians, with whom the
station is crowded.

It is a little difficult to express in words the conflict
of feelings in your mind as you enter Germany. You
are certainly prepared for something dramatic. It is
almost with a shock you realise that German civilians are
not equipped with hoofs and horns or other attributes of
a Satanic character. After all, they look just like any



16 WATCHING ON THE RHINE

one else: tidy, well-dressed, self-respecting people — the
typical German crowd of old days. But certainly you
expected to see some outward and visible signs of mili-
tary occupation, apart from the familiar sight of khaki
soldiers; visions of a Germany bristling with guns; of
burgomasters and high officials walking about with
halters, actual or metaphorical, round their necks; of a
sullen, conquered people casting looks of hatred on con-
querors who move among them in no small peril of their
lives. If such is the anticipation, it proves to be ludi-
crously remote from the reality. The outstanding fact in
the occupied territory, and one which fills an English
visitor with ever-growing amazement, is the complete
acquiescence of the Germans in the situation. Life is
astonishingly normal. Khaki soldiers have replaced
grey-coated soldiers. Otherwise everything seems to
go on exactly as before. These amazing people, out-
wardly at least, do not appear to mind that their country
is occupied by hostile armies. The Germans on the Aachen
platform were moving about and talking in a placid, un-
disturbed manner. Their indifference to the British and
Belgian soldiers appeared to be absolute. A picture rose
before my eyes of an English station occupied by Ger-
man troops: would equal apathy and indifference have
been shown under such conditions? In this as in many
other respects the German psychology is a riddle to which
no answer seems forthcoming, and it is a riddle the per-
plexity of which will be found to deepen with every hour
spent in the occupied territory.

Between Aachen and Cologne the train runs through
a district rich in natural resources, both mineral and agri-
cultural. We pass many large factories of modern con-



THE ArPROACH 17

struction in which, thanks to smoke-saving apparatus, the
dirt of our own industrial districts has been avoided.
Those factories are not idle. It is true not every large
chimney is smoking, but some chimneys in every group
show that work is going on. The Rhineland industries
are to a large extent independent of imported material,
and the activities in this district cannot be taken as an
index to the rest of Germany. Similarly with the soil.
Agricultural experts tell us that taken as a whole the soil
of Germany is naturally poor. Only immense scientific
care and attention made it possible in pre-war days for
the land to yield 85 per cent, of the nation's food. But
here in the Rhineland the quality of the crops must strike
the most casual traveller. With the thin English harvest
in mind, I can only marvel at these bumper crops — the
thick yellow corn, the potatoes, the roots, the mealies, the
general impression of agricultural prosperity. The land
is in perfect order. Every twig looks as though it had
been put in splints. Whatever else has suffered, prisoners'
labour, or labour of some kind, has kept the land clean
and in order. Compare the large areas of devastation
in France with this fat, smiling country bearing no visible
signs of any kind of war, and the bitterness in many
French hearts seems very natu'-al. It is difficult to asso-
ciate stories of want and starvation with a rich country
like this. Yet it was quite clear that at the last Germany
was brought to her knees by hunger. The surface im-
pression of prosperity in one particular district may be
misleading — the reality may prove on closer acquaintance
to be of grimmer stuff !

Already a hundred questions beset my mind as Cologne
Cathedral comes into sight. There is something typically



18 WATCHING ON THE RHINE

German about the unwieldy appearance of the Kolner
Dom crowned with its preposterous spires. Many years
had passed since I was last in Cologne. As the line ran
through the clean, well-built suburbs, I remembered
vaguely an hotel on the Dom Platz, and a general im-
pression of tall, robust men drinking beer and eating
large meals. From a dusty shelf in memory's cupboard
came the recollection of some careless remark made to an
English friend — I hoped there would never be war be-
tween England and Germany, because judging by the
physique of the men, war with them would be no trifling
affair. . . .

The train has drawn up in the fine Haupt Bahnhof.
Two W.A.A.C. administrators, courteous and business-
like, examine tickets and visas. A large German stand-
ing meekly, hat in hand, before the fair-haired English
girl stamping his pass is eloquent as to some lessons taught
by the Occupation. Amazing is the scene which breaks
on the traveller on emerging from the railway station.
Khaki-clad soldiers swarm in every direction. Soldiers,
soldiers ; they overflow the railway station, the square, the
Hohenzollern bridge. The Dom rises grim and protest-
ing from a sea of khaki. Government lorries lumber
down the streets; the square in front of the Excelsior
Hotel, where a modest Union Jack over the door proclaims
the presence of G.H.Q., is crowded with cars. Every
branch of the service is here in force. Uniformed women
on whom the Boche gazes with peculiar annoyance are
common. Selected W.A.A.C. administrators are carry-
ing on responsible work of various kinds. Searching Ger-
man women passengers whose clothes are found to be



THE APPROACH 19

stuffed with sausages must have its humours as well as
its drawbacks.

The W.R.A,F. is here as a force. Army nurses in
red and grey and the blue of the V.A.D.'s vary the
monotony of the prevalent mustard colour. Here and
there one sees the blue headdress of a British Empire
Leave Club worker, the girls who do much for the enter-
tainment of Thomas Atkins in a foreign town.
Y.M.C.A., Church Army, and half a dozen other organ-
isations are all to the fore. Atkins must be a much-
amused man with so many willing workers to cater for his
needs. This is the Army of Occupation as it came up
from the fields of victory over 200,000 strong. Large
numbers of troops are quartered, not only in Cologne,
but throughout the occupied area and the bridgehead.
But demobilisation has already laid its hand on this great
force. The sluices are drawn and civilian life will shortly
reclaim the lads who crowd the town and area. It is a
wonderful sight to have seen, a wonderful moment in
history to have experienced. The German goes about
his work in the middle of this English crowd apparently
as unconcerned as his fellow-countrymen at Aachen and
Diiren. But what at heart is he thinking of it all? What
actions and reactions are likely to result from this strange
assembly of people thrown together by the compelling
force of the sword on the banks of the Rhine?



CHAPTER II
COLOGNE AND THE OCCUPATION

During the war we thought and talked with anguish
daily of that line of trenches stretching from Switzerland
to the sea where men suffered and died. Even the most
unimaginative were stirred to emotion by stories of the
strange semi-subterranean existence which modern condi-
tions of warfare had imposed on the armies of Europe.
To-day another line stretches for a distance nearly as
great along the banks of the Rhine, but the men compos-
ing it are no longer compelled to dwell as troglodytes.
The German word for Armistice, "Waffenstillstand,"
literally "the standing still of the weapons," expresses
very graphically the conditions under which the Armies
of Occupation live. The line has moved east from the
horrors and desolation of devastated France to the rich
provinces of the left bank of the Rhine. Cannons are
silent; bombs drop no more. But the weapons, though
standing still, are there, and determine the strange exist-
ence which we Allies lead among a conquered people.

Along the line of the Rhine, therefore, lie the armies of
the conquering powers in a peace their guns have ensured
and maintain. The French hold the southern end with
their headquarters at Mainz, and Wiesbaden, most at-
tractive of spas, as a centre of refreshment in the lighter
moments of life. Next come the Americans at Coblenz,
then the English at Cologne, finally the Belgians in the



COLOGNE AND THE OCCUPATION 21

north. As time has gone on the EngHsh occupation has
become smaller and smaller, while the French has in-
creased proportionately. Nobody quite knows what
position the Americans hold at Coblenz, for America has
not signed the Peace Treaty, and her forces remain in
theory entirely independent of obligations which apply
to the signatory powers. But, thanks to the wise and
statesmanlike guidance of the American Commander-in-
Chief, General Allen, an anomalous position has in prac-
tice worked without friction.

As for the life we lead in Occupied Germany, cer-
tainly during the early days very few people at home were
able to appreciate the measure of its comfort and security.
On returning to England for the first time on a visit
from Cologne, I was met by many anxious inquiries from
friends and relatives. Was it really safe for me to be
in such a place? Of course I never walked about the
town alone? Did the Germans spit at me? Perhaps out
of fear they repressed that natural inclination, but of
course they were as insolent as they dared under the cir-
cumstances ? Had we machine guns at every street corner
ready to fire? Others in the same breath, both militant
and inconsequent — of course I never spoke to the brutes,
but naturally I laid it across them if I did ... it was to
be hoped I had lost no opportunity of rubbing in their
enormities. Two pictures out of many rose before my
mind as I listened to these remarks

A hot August evening in Cologne. A large crowd
fills the Zoological Gardens, where an open-air concert
is being held. Singers from Cologne and other opera
houses have given us selections of German, French, and
Italian music in a spirit entirely catholic. Equally cath-



22 WATCHING ON THE RHINE

olic is their reception by the large and appreciative cos-
mopoHtan crowd. In front of the open-air stage, Ger-
mans, French, Enghsh, and Americans sit side by side
at Httle tables drinking beer or Rhine wine. The music
is heard in complete silence, even Thomas Atkins com-
pelled thereto by the genius loci. On the terrace of the
neighbouring restaurant dinner is proceeding. Numerous
German families, the girls in muslin frocks and summer
hats, are out together for the evening. At a table next
to ours a small group of men, unmistakably soldiers, are
dining together. They are all in plain clothes, but two
of them wear in their buttonholes the minute,
scarcely visible black-and-white ribbon of the Iron
Cross. The German prima-donna sings the well-known
air from La Boheme. She is loudly applauded by all
present, by no one more energetically than by a French
officer sitting near me. As darkness comes on, illumina-
tions add their gaiety to the scene, pink and white lights
shining among the dark leaves. A peaceful, happy gath-
ering, with laughter, and music, and beer — the music and
the beer both of excellent quality. Forget for a moment
that the uniforms are khaki, not grey, put back the clock
five years, and who would suspect the tragic bonds of
blood and strife in which the company are united? Is the
war a dream or a nightmare ? Is Europe white with the
bones of the millions who have died; is Germany itself
staggering on the edge of ruin and starvation? If so,
how can this musical fete, this peaceful bourgeois gath-
ering, be possible; the enemies of yesterday eating and
drinking and applauding side by side as though nothing
had happened? What does it all mean? What is one
doing there oneself?



COLOGNE AND THE OCCUPATION 23

Again: near the house in which we live a chronic fair
goes on every afternoon. Swing-boats, roundabouts,
shooting-galleries, all the various side-shows of an English
country feast are here. Drinks, ice-cream, and refresh-
ments are no less to the fore. Music, that monotonous
braying music which always accompanies a merry-go-
round, goes on mechanically for many hours. Here
Thomas Atkins gathers in force. The thrifty Boche, in
fact, has created the whole fair for his entertainment at
a modest price. It is characteristic of the race that they
not only accept the British Occupation with entire acqui-
escence, but endeavour by every means in their power to
turn it to good account. Notices in English explain the
nature of the side-shows. All prices are marked in plain
figures. Reprehensible though it may be, Gretchen not
infrequently is to be seen on the roundabouts and in the
swing-boats with the said Thomas. Picture-postcards,
trinkets, souvenirs, are all for sale. The shooting-galleries
are crowded by soldiers still anxious to let off their
piece in a more harmless fashion than on the scarred bat-
tle-line far away to the west. The Germans are out to
amuse, the English to be amused. Perfect good temper
animates both buyers and sellers. Introspection is hardly
the hall-mark of the soldier in the ranks, and the English
lads who lounge about from booth to booth never give a
thought to the amazing situation in which they find them-
selves. Many of them on demobilisation leave Cologne
with real regret. It is a clean, decent place, with more
than decent beer. After all Fritz is not such a bad fel-
low. ... In the long and varied history of Britain's rule
overseas has the Pax Britannica ever held sway under
conditions so strange as these ? As darkness falls the fair



24^ WATCHING ON THE RHINE

is lit up by great flares, and the scene grows more and
more animated. Cologne, with large resources in the
shape of a cheap fuel supply in its immediate neighbour-
hood, is well off both as regards light and heat. But at
last all is silent. Curfew has rung for the Germans, the
Last Post for the English. That desperate tune repeated
for hours by the merry-go-round is mercifully at an end
for the night. To-morrow it will all begin again, and so
on day after day

What are we to make of the civility of these people
among whom we live as conquerors? How can it be
reconciled with their arrogance and brutality when they
had the upper hand in France and Belgium? These
middle-class families, these quiet, respectable working-
class people enjoying their simple pleasures, what part
did they take in the insults heaped on prisoners and cap-


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